Celebrating Texas Independents: Deep Vellum Books and Brazos Bookstore

“Texas is all about surprises, and our indie lit scene reflects that in the best possible way.”

-Benjamin Rybeck

What a wonderful month we’ve had of Celebrating Texas Independents! From Odessa, to San Antonio, to Austin, and Dallas, we’ve so enjoyed meeting our great literary state’s wonderful writers and readers, as well as independent booksellers, publishers, and journal editors.

This entire month wouldn’t have been possible without the great independent bookstores that hosted our events. We interviewed Anne Hollander of Deep Vellum Books in Dallas and Benjamin Rybeck of Brazos Bookstore in Houston, who each hosted as at their respective bookstores, about the literary landscape in Texas.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape — what makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers?

Anne Hollander: The Texas literary scene is blooming with talented writers and authors who are gaining recognition for their work, both with voracious audiences as well as within the circles of the traditional, institutional publishing houses. We love Merritt Tierce, David Olimpio, Joe Milazzo, Sanderia Faye, Ben Fountain, and the dedicated swath of poets, essayists, and other writers who visit us often, and who are producing fantastic work.

Deep Vellum customers are clamoring for literary works as though they’ve been starved–without a doubt, there is plenty of opportunity both for publishers and booksellers here in Texas. One of the more surprising aspects to outsiders is the genuine spirit of collaboration within the Texas literary world. To Texans, this is completely natural: we’re raised to get involved, to lend a hand, to build and utilize networks, and to celebrate our collective successes. This is especially evident in the literary scene and we’re thrilled to take part in uniting writers and readers, publishers and booksellers.

Benjamin Rybeck: I grew up in New England, where my perception of Texas was always cowboys, soulless skyscrapers, traffic jams. Are these things untrue? Either way, it’s not the full story. I have never found a more welcoming literary community anywhere I’ve lived, and folks underestimate Texas’s lit scene at their own peril. There are indie bookstores, present (Brazos, BookPeople, Twig, Murder by the Book, Blue Willow, Wild Detectives) and future (my former boss Jeremy Ellis is going to do some stellar work with Interabang in Dallas, I’m sure) that rank among the nation’s best and most exciting. There are exciting indie publishers (A Strange Object, Deep Vellum, etc.). There are a slew of literary magazines that push the boundaries of what’s expected (I recently joined the board at Gulf Coast, where they’re featuring one of the nation’s only lit journal-sponsored translation prizes). Texas is a whole playground of forward-thinking ideas about art and culture ready to be explored.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents in Texas’s literary community (publishers, journals, booksellers) and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do at your bookstores?

AH: I think the role of independents is to both nurture a network of readers and writers and to challenge the long-held commandments of how things should be done. Independents have the agility and local-to-global pulse that larger institutions lack. I strongly believe the the future of media–bookstores, publishers, authors, writers, readers, distribution, production–will be defined by the ideas, concepts, standards, and processes we’re experimenting with today.

Which is the most rewarding aspect of our work at Deep Vellum: given the same source materials, we’re creating something completely different and enabling multiple creative collaborations to flourish within the bookstore. Our local literary scene, as I said, is blooming with a surprising amount of talent, and where before there was a lack of infrastructure (i.e., consistent welcoming places to meet, perform, collaborate, network, critique), Deep Vellum opened its doors with a singular purpose: to be that place where the creative community comes together. To sit in the back with a cup of coffee and experience what our community creates–it’s the most rewarding work I’ve done in my career.

BR: Cities like Houston are inclusive major metropolitan areas that want everybody to have a high quality of life, and the indie lit community in Texas is there to reflect this. Texas is all about surprises, and our indie lit scene reflects that in the best possible way. The most rewarding part of the job to me is when somebody comes to Brazos and leaves not only with new books but also with ideas about what Houston’s arts community is. “I didn’t know places like this still existed” is something we hear every day, and I always have to suppress my giddy smile for fear of looking like a freak.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about a program or event that you have upcoming that exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.

AH: Our mission is as easy as ABC: accessible books & culture. This mission manifests itself in a variety of different ways, including collaboration opportunities with local businesses and institutions within the cities we serve, curating strong book and event programming to reflect the needs and desires of the communities we serve, and creating an inclusive environment to stimulate growth, change, and activism within the store locale.

You’ve caught us on the cusp of several announcements: we’re soon to announce a handful of collaborative partnerships here in Dallas to extend the reach of great books across the city–some of which are non-traditional outlets. We’re very close to a new bookstore location in Denton, and we’re excited to provide space, structure, and support to a quickly evolving creative community (which is growing by leaps and bounds every day!). And we’re within a couple weeks of announcing the results of a big data-driven project we’ve been working on since December–more on that as soon as we release the results.

BR: I’m excited–as I am every year–about Independent Bookstore Day (April 30), but this year especially, because our day-long programming gives us a chance to highlight the deep partnerships we’ve formed in Houston with other literary organizations, museums, graphic designers, movie theaters, nonprofit educational organizations, etc. This, to me, demonstrates the openness of Houston’s arts community: you can get pretty much anyone on the phone and propose a weird idea and pretty much everyone says “let’s do it!” Indie bookstores are not only retail spaces and cultural hubs; they’re bastions of weird ideas. Luckily, Texas–with its always-evolving sense of itself–is usually game. I wouldn’t want to do this job anywhere else.

Thanks, Anne and Ben!

You can visit our website for details on the past month of panels and read interviews with our panelists here on our blog. We’ll also be posting a podcast version of our Austin panel on Soundcloud soon, so stay tuned!

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in a future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

 

Advertisements

Celebrating Texas Independents: Houston

“Texas rewards a desire for independence, and this is seen in the independent bookstores that serve as community hubs and in the incredibly diverse independent publishers who take pride in bringing out underserved voices.”

-LeeAnne Carlson

What a wonderful month we’ve had of Celebrating Texas Independents! From Odessa, to San Antonio, to Austin, and Dallas, we’ve so enjoyed meeting our great literary state’s wonderful writers and readers, as well as independent booksellers, publishers, and journal editors. We’ve got one more panel left this month in Houston on March 31 at 7 pm at Brazos Bookstore (details and address here). We hope you’ll join us for this discussion on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer. We’ll also discuss writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

In Houston, we’ll be speaking with four distinguished panelists. We recently interviewed three of them — Gabriela Baeza Ventura, executive editor at Arte Público Press;  LeeAnne Carlson, editor at Glass Mountain; and Jill Meyers, cofounder of A Strange Object — about the literary landscape in Texas.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape — what makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers?

Gabriela Baeza Ventura

Gabriela Baeza Ventura: Texas has an extensive literary presence, especially in regards to the Latino community. Latinos have been publishing and writing in this territory since before it became part of the United States. The multitude of experiences of the people who live in this land, from those who are now established to recent arrivals, make the writing in our state unique. The small and large presses in Texas are also excellent venues for writers and readers.

LeeAnne Carlson

LeeAnne Carlson: Texas has an incredibly deep and rich literary community. The things that make Texas unique are those very aspects which have made Texas enticing for hundreds of years. Texas is a land built on independence — a sense that anything is possible, where innovation and creativity are given free reign. This desire for independence, new opportunities, and a fresh start is what brought Sam Houston, James Bowie, and Stephen F. Austin to Texas! Texas rewards a desire for independence, and this is seen in the independent bookstores that serve as community hubs and in the incredibly diverse independent publishers who take pride in bringing out underserved voices.

Jill Meyers

Jill Meyers: Texas is known for being friendly and open—as well as a place that operates according to its own playbook and its own rules. It is an independent-minded place! People pursue big dreams and launch new ventures here. That warm, welcoming culture as well as the Texas spirit of entrepreneurialism extend to the literary sphere.

As for opportunities? There’s such a wide array of projects to get involved in—as a reader of books and journals, a volunteer, an employee. Arte Público is the oldest publisher of Hispanic literature in the U.S., based right here in Houston. Cinco Puntos, in El Paso, publishes books for adults as well as YA and kids’ books.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents in Texas’s literary community (publishers, journals, booksellers) and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do? 

GBV: Our role—Arte Público Press—is to serve as a publishing venue for US Latino writers. In fact, we have been sustaining and promoting Latino literature for the past thirty-eight years. The role of any independent publisher, journal, or bookseller is to promote underserved communities and create spaces where their literature is represented and it is written by them. Working at a nonprofit publishing house that has been responsible for advocating for Latinas/os and creating literature for all ages in various literary genres–such as poetry, fiction, nonfiction, scholarly, and art–for over 35 years is quite rewarding.

LC: At Glass Mountain, we accept submissions from writers who have not not attended an MFA or creative writing PhD program. While we see the value for many writers in pursuing the more formal study of an MFA or PhD, the reality is that the majority of writers will not attend these programs. It is through independent journals, publishers, and booksellers that these writers have the best chance at having their voices heard. Sometimes these voices are not heard through traditional avenues because the voices are not conventional or mainstream. Sometimes these voices are not heard because the traditional avenues are not available to the writer by virtue of age or life circumstances.

Although Glass Mountain is technically a part of the English Department at the University of Houston, by accepting submissions only from emerging writers, we give voice to those writers who are not served by the formal academic study of writing. One of the most rewarding aspects of this is printing a writer’s first piece–some of these writers have been working in solitude for years with no recognition. In just the last two issues of Glass Mountain we have published work by writers from Russia, Columbia, and Mexico. We have also accepted work from high school students and, my personal favorite, a short story from a 65-year-old labor attorney from New Jersey. I am humbled to have been able to be a part of these artists’ first formal recognition.

JM: The role of independents is to signal-boost new voices. We do this through publishing debut writers. Bookstores do this by recommending compelling new titles and hosting book clubs and events.

In some ways, the independents offer their own ecosystem. Terrific independent bookstores like Brazos Bookstore promote and support our books, as they do local independent journals. Our books are available via that behemoth online retailer, but if folks are in Austin where A Strange Object is based, we send them to BookPeople, Malvern, Bookwoman—all the indie bookstores. The appetite for local, for relevant, for made-here is growing.

The most rewarding work is twofold: working with writers to refine their vision for their work, which in addition to editing the work with great care, includes working with cover designers, publicists, and a whole team to get that right. The writer-editor collaboration is full of discovery and delight. And then, of course, there’s introducing the book to the world by launching it at a local indie. So much of this is good–getting to hold the gorgeous physical object in our hands, getting to see strangers excited about this book that’s just come out,  and getting to see people itching to read these stories and hear a new voice.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about a program or event that you have upcoming that exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas (or, if that’s not applicable, tell us about something you have upcoming that you’re especially excited about; a chance to promote something to our readers! Include a link if appropriate).

GBV: Nicolás Kanellos, founder and director of Arte Público Press, also funded Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, a program that has been locating, preserving and disseminating Hispanic culture in its written form since colonial times until 1960. For example, this program has been responsible for locating over 1400 Spanish-language newspaper and continues to do more. This summer we launched the first Digital Humanities Research for Latina/o Studies. Find more info on our website.

LC: Often those who would desire to craft a life around their art are made to feel as if there are two options–graduate study, or to blaze their own trails. Sometimes writers may feel as if their trailblazing is more akin to hacking their own path through what at times may seem like an inhospitable jungle. One way that we do assist those trailblazing writers is by hosting a yearly writing conference called Boldface. It’s specifically aimed at “emerging writers,” defined as those writers who have not attended an MFA or PhD program in Creative Writing. This conference, held at the University of Houston, is an entire week of intensive small group workshops, master craft classes, and professional panels on topics ranging from query letters to social media. One-on-one consultations with our visiting authors are also available. We work very hard to provide a world-class caliber conference at an affordable price. Find more info here.

JM: We are extraordinarily excited about our next title which will be out in the fall, The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Michael Noll. It’s a versatile, accessible, and funny book that examines stellar published work—from George Saunders, Roxane Gay, Rachel Kushner, and more—and unpacks the strategies the writers are using. It embraces and examines all kinds of good writing, from fantasy to mystery to literary fiction. As we lead up to publication, we’ll be hosting some workshops where you can get a preview of the book, dig into some exercises, and come away with some new work. Find more information on our website.

Thanks, Gabriela, LeeAnne, and Jill! Also included in this Houston panel discussion is Will Evans of Cinestate — read an interview with him here. You can visit our website for details on the past month of panels. We’ll also be posting a podcast version of our Austin panel on Soundcloud soon, so stay tuned!

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in a future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Celebrating Texas Independents: Madeline Smoot

In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March.

These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

Our discussion in Dallas will be held at Deep Vellum Books tonight (March 23) at 7 pm (details and address here). We’ll be speaking with four distinguished panelists. We recently interviewed panelist Madeline Smoot, publisher of CBAY Books, about the literary landscape in Texas.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape — what makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers?

Madeline Smoot: In Texas, especially in the children’s market, I find that everyone is so supportive of one another. We all celebrate one another in a myriad of ways, whether it’s Cynthia Leitch Smith offering to help support local Austin authors’ books, or statewide groups like the Writers’ League, or the various regional Texas SCBWIs reaching out to indie presses. It means that there are so many opportunities for everyone involved in the publishing industry. Independents like BookPeople in Austin, Brazos Bookstore in Houston, and Deep Vellum Books here in Dallas are always happy to carry and promote local authors’ books. Any author, whether aspiring or already established, will always find a welcome in the Texas literary world.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents in Texas’s literary community (publishers, journals, booksellers) and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do at CBAY Books?

MS: Independents play a large role in publishing in those niches that are too small for the Big 5. We can do regional books set here in Texas that appeal to a Texas audience. There’s nothing more rewarding than connecting an author’s book to the perfect reader. With Texans having so much state pride, it’s wonderful to be able to offer books that are geared toward this specific audience.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about a program or event that you have upcoming that exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas (or, if that’s not applicable, tell us about something you have upcoming that you’re especially excited about; a chance to promote something to our readers! Include a link if appropriate).

MS: One of the great things about being independent in Texas (as opposed to elsewhere in the country) is that you have such a large pool of authors and so many distinct Texas experiences to draw from. Our lead title for the fall, Uncertain Summer, is set at Caddo Lake in East Texas and follows a girl determined to get a picture of the elusive Bigfoot that can be found there. The book is by Austin author Jessica Lee Anderson, and there’s a distinct East Texas feel in the voice of the book. Everything about the book encompasses the pride and spirit we have here in Texas.

Thanks, Madeline! Also included in this Dallas panel discussion will be Karen DeVinney of University of North Texas Press, Will Evans of Cinestate, and Matthew Limpede of Carve Magazine (read interviews with them here and here). Visit our website for additional cities and dates where we’ll be Celebrating Texas Independents throughout the month of March.

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in a future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Celebrating Texas Independents: Carve Magazine and UNT Press

“Independent booksellers, publishers, and magazines provide a way for the public to discover literature and local communities so that they can be part of a bigger dialogue on culture and art.”

-Matthew Limpede

In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March.

These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

Our discussion in Dallas will be held at Deep Vellum Books on Thursday, March 23, at 7 pm (details and address here). We’ll be speaking with four distinguished panelists. We recently interviewed two of them about the literary landscape in Texas: Karen J. DeVinney, assistant director and managing editor at University of North Texas Press, and Matthew Limpede, executive editor of Carve magazine.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape — what makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers?

Matthew Limpede: Like many things in Texas, so much of what makes us unique is our outsized (or perhaps “Texas-sized”) identity. Our literary landscape is shaped by our pride in being Texan, and in taking that Texan perspective to the world while also inviting others to experience it. There are a lot of opportunities here. We have some stellar MFA programs, and there are literary communities growing and thriving in both urban and rural areas. There are conferences and festivals, both big and small, for nearly every type of genre (romance, teen, literary, you name it). Independent bookstores are also valuable community anchors in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and other cities.

Karen J. DeVinney: This is a tricky question because of the enormous changes in the cultural landscape of Texas over the last twenty-some years. The stereotype of the cowboy and oil baron has been replaced by a more urban, cosmopolitan profile. Books about the Wild West do not claim the same market that they used to and have been replaced by Spanish-language books or  book with non-European emphases. We still publish a lot of Texas Ranger history, but it’s not selling that strongly compared to books that could have come out of any state — such as titles on jazz music, for instance.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents in Texas’s literary community (publishers, journals, booksellers) and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do at Carve?

ML: I think independents’ role is to be a point of access for the public. While academic institutions are an invaluable and indispensable part of the culture of literature, not everyone is able to access or participate in that. So independent booksellers, publishers, and magazines provide a way for the public to discover literature and local communities so that they can be part of a bigger dialogue on culture and art. What I find most rewarding about Carve is providing an opportunity for people to participate in a community that they’re proud of and excited to be in. Most of Carve is run by volunteers, and they wouldn’t be providing their time and energy without it giving something back to them in return. I’m happy to facilitate that exchange however I can.

KJD:  Independents are more nimble; they can pick up books on narrower topics that appeal to a narrower market; they can provide more personalized experiences. My favorite part of working for a small university press is the close relationships I can form with my authors. If I’ve acquired a book, then when it comes time to edit it, I’ve already had a 6-month-long relationship with the author. Tasks at a large commercial press can often be much more siloed, and the manuscript editors rarely get to know their authors like the acquisitions folks do. And the acquisitions folks rarely stay in contact with their authors through editorial.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about a program or event that you have upcoming that exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.

ML: I’m always excited about our Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, which is open April 1 – May 15. We offer five prizes totaling $2500, and all winners are read by three literary agents. A little-known fact about Raymond Carver: he met Tess Gallagher at the SMU Writer’s Conference. So Texas is embedded in the story of Carver’s life in a very wonderful way, and we’re proud to honor him as our magazine’s namesake.

KJD: A book of photographs by four generations of a Texas family is a good example of something a larger press would probably not take on, but we were able to. And even though there’s a Texas angle to it, it has received a lot of attention worldwide. You can find more info here.

Thanks, Karen and Matthew! Also included in this Dallas panel discussion will be Will Evans of Cinestate (read an interview with him here) and Madeline Smoot of CBAY Books. Visit our website for additional cities and dates where we’ll be Celebrating Texas Independents throughout the month of March.

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in a future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Celebrating Texas Independents: Austin

“One of the unique aspects of the Texas literary landscape is the overwhelming support that writers and others in the book community here provide to one another.”

-Colleen Devine Ellis

In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March.

These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

Our Third Thursday panel discussion in Austin will be held at BookPeople on Thursday, March 16 at 7 pm (details and address here). We’ll be speaking with four distinguished panelists. We recently interviewed three of them about the literary landscape in Texas: Colleen Devine Ellis of University of Texas Press, Abby Fennewald of BookPeople, and Sunny Leal of fields and Feminine Inquiry.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape — what makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers?

Colleen Devine Ellis

Colleen Devine Ellis: One of the unique aspects of the Texas literary landscape is the overwhelming support that writers and others in the book community here provide to one another. I attend a lot of book signings and events, both as part of my job and because I love books, and there are frequently writers and booksellers in the audience. It’s inspiring to see how successful, established writers can positively affect the careers of their not-yet-established peers, and then watch those writers do the same with students and beginning writers. There is a comparable swell of support and promotion for booksellers, independent bookstores, and small/university press publishers. By investing in the literary communities in Texas, we invest in the support and success of writers, publishers, and booksellers, and the continued enjoyment of readers.

Abby Fennewald

Abby Fennewald: When I first moved to Texas I really wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the literary landscape. In my year here, it has become clear that Texas, and Austin in particular, has a community of writers and readers that’s flourishing in a city that has a strong tradition of creativity of all kinds. As a bookseller, it’s always special to promote local writers and presses. We like to think there’s a certain synergy in all of our goals as we want to keep the literary landscape vibrant, and having a bookstore as a community space that works with local writers to sell their work is an important part of that.

Sunny Leal

Sunny Leal: What I think makes the Texas literary landscape so unique is the diversity Texas has to offer. Not only does Texas host an array of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, especially being so close to the border, but the state is home to so many different types of landscapes, climates, histories, and lifestyles that if you want to write about a certain subject there is an audience for it here. Or if you want to sell a certain type of literature or publish a very specific genre, there is someone in Texas who will share in that enthusiasm with you. Everything is truly bigger in Texas, and the scope of literature in this state is just as large.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents in Texas’s literary community (publishers, journals, booksellers) and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do at your respective organizations?

CDE: Independent and university presses are particularly well-suited to encourage, publish and promote new authors, and to take risks that larger publishers won’t (or can’t). One example of how a university press can make a difference is from 2015 when the publisher I work for released The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African-American Cookbooks by Toni-Tipton Martin. Showcasing one of the world’s largest private collections of African American cookbooks, ranging from rare nineteenth-century texts to modern classics by Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor, it’s an extensively illustrated book that brings to light a formerly hidden story about America’s food culture. Larger publishers declined to publish the book for a number of reasons, including that it wasn’t easily defined by bookstore subject categories, it would be expensive to produce, and it was the first book of its kind so there were no strong comparisons to use for sale and marketing data.

UT Press chose to publish it because we saw it as a trailblazer in food writing and African-American history. It’s since gone on to win a James Beard Award, be featured in national press including several articles in the New York Times, and sell thousands of copies.  It was a joy to see this book be so successful because it is truly original and important, and it might not have ever been published if we didn’t take a risk for a project we believed in so strongly.

AF: As we frequently talk about with our booksellers, the most rewarding thing about being an independent is that we have so much control over what we are talking about and promoting, both in-store face-to-face with customers and online. For booksellers, that means you can really move the dial on a book you love, hand-selling it at every opportunity that arises. A bookseller’s love means a book gets put in the hands of customers long after it’s published. For the store it means we can really commit to what we think is important for people to read. At the moment, that means our storewide push behind Mohsin Hamid’s excellent new novel, Exit West. And to take it a step further we’re giving part of our proceeds back to the community as a donation to Caritas of Austin. Those ties keep us part of our community and help serve the people who shop here.

SL: The role of independents in Texas’s literary community is to create and foster the avenues in which our wide net of writers can thrive and be acknowledged. As I said earlier, there is so much room in our literary landscape and with so much space a lot of the lesser-known voices can get lost. It is not only the responsibility of independent journals, sellers, and publishers to play host for the large amount of up-and-coming writers here in Texas, but it is a privilege to be able to see these people hone their craft and share their work with audiences that will truly appreciate it.

That is also a part of what is so rewarding about working with fields magazine. Every submission period I read amazing work by hundreds of relatively unknown poets and I am in awe of each and every one of their talents and the bravery they possess in putting their work out there for consideration. To have these great writers place their work in my hands and trust that I will make honest and fair judgement on something they worked so hard on is so humbling and inspiring.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about a program or event that you have upcoming that exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas (or, if that’s not applicable, tell us about something you have upcoming that you’re especially excited about; a chance to promote something to our readers! Include a link if appropriate).

CDE: We are looking forward to SXSW this year because three of our authors are featured in the official programming: Jarod Neece and Mando Rayo for The Tacos of Texas, and Zak Pellacio for Project 258: Making Dinner at Fish and Game. In April, the San Antonio Book Festival is always a great day for authors, publishers, booksellers, and especially readers. University of Texas Press authors including Bill Wittliff,  Barbara MorganMaya PerezAndrea Valdez, and Frederick Luis Aldama will be on panels throughout the day.

AF: We’ve watched as bookstores nationwide are examining their role in their communities since the election. For most of us, the most important thing is to remain a place of open minded discussion and idea sharing, and in that vein we’re starting a new book club called Uncomfortable Reads. The inaugural meeting is on March 28 at 8 pm, and we hope this can be a great gathering place for Austinites to come talk about issues that are affecting them, with guidance from books we think are important reading. Details here.

SL: On March 31st, fields magazine will be holding our seventh issue release party at First Street Studio. I’m so excited for this event because not only do we get to celebrate the 20+ creatives that are featured in our upcoming issue, but we’re also hosting readings and performances by people who have taken their crafts and truly made it their own, whether that be from influences in their personal life or through their own unique style. These writers and performers along with the continued success of fields really exemplify what it means to be independent in Texas: no matter what obstacles we may face, we’re doing it right, doing it big, and doing it our way. That seems like a pretty Texan mindset to me.

Thanks, Colleen, Abby, and Sunny! Also included in this panel discussion will be Will Evans of Cinestate; read an interview with him here. Visit our website for additional cities and dates where we’ll be Celebrating Texas Independents throughout the month of March.

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in a future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Celebrating Texas Independents: The Twig Book Shop in San Antonio

celebrating-2

In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March. These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

Last night, we had such a great time at our panel discussion in San Antonio at The Twig Book Shop. We interviewed General Manager Claudia Maceo and Events Coordinator Nancy Gebhardt to learn more about this fantastic independent bookstore and the San Antonio literary community.

Scribe:
Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape? What makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, and publishers?

Claudia Maceo: In San Antonio, Gemini Ink is our literary organization that brings in locally and nationally known writing talent to teach classes for developing writers. Publishers like Wings Press and Trinity University Press provide opportunities for authors of all genres, many of whom are writing about our diverse Texas region. The Twig Book Shop is a destination for locals and visitors alike who have regional interests, from children’s books to Texas history, from fiction to poetry.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents (publishers, journals, booksellers) in Texas’s literary community, and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do as an independent publisher?

CM: While we certainly provide the best of new traditionally published books, we also have tried to develop an eye for the lesser-known talents, the smaller print runs, and topics that might not be of interest in other markets. It is our genuine joy and pleasure to introduce our selection to the curious, open-minded reader. Hearing someone admire the selection is immensely affirming. One thing that distinguishes us as independent booksellers is our knowledge of books and our ability to articulate that knowledge.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about one of your upcoming programs, events, or publications that you feel exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.

Nancy Gebhardt: At The Twig we enjoy promoting our local authors with author appearances, book signings, and readings. Our events give both new and experienced authors a chance to get their names out, meet the community, and talk about their writing process. We feature a wide variety of authors and genres with fascinating stories and ideas, all right here in South Texas! Our calendar is full of fun things to do, see, and experience.

Thanks, Claudia and Nancy!

Visit our website for additional cities and dates throughout the month of March.

March 6 panel at the Twig with moderator Becka Oliver and panelists Kelly Grey Carlisle, Tom Payton, Will Evans, and Bryce Milligan

 

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Celebrating Texas Independents: An Interview with Will Evans of Cinestate

“The literary landscape springs from the Texas soil and expands to bring the world to Texas as well, and that’s awesome.”

-Will Evans

celebrating-2

Texas has a thriving literary scene. Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities in your own state, especially in your own backyard? In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March.

These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

Our panel discussion in San Antonio will be held at The Twig Book Shop tonight, March 6 at 6 pm (details and address here). We’ll be speaking with four distinguished panelists, one of whom is Will Evans, co-founder and president of Cinestate. He was just part of our panel in Odessa last week, and he’ll be joining us for additional panels in Austin, Houston, and Dallas throughout the month (details and dates here). To learn a little bit more about Will, we interviewed him about the literary landscape in Texas.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape? What makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, and publishers?

Will Evans: We at Cinestate are always amazed at the strength and the diversity of the Texas literary landscape, the cinematic quality of the writing, and the visionary talent that springs from our midst. Because of the sheer size of the state, we can lose sight of the fact that Texas has one of the strongest literary communities in the country. We have much to celebrate.

The writers, the publishers, the universities, the literary organizations, the institutions, and the foundations all combine to form a larger whole. The diversity expands to every individual in the state, in every city and town. The literary landscape springs from the Texas soil and expands to bring the world to Texas as well, and that’s awesome.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents (publishers, journals, booksellers) in Texas’s literary community, and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do as an independent publisher?

The independent literary community is the lifeblood of the literary arts in Texas. Our independent bookstores provide a home for writers, publishers, teachers, and readers to come together to meet, to share ideas, to learn from one another, to have a good time, and to revel in the beauty of the written and printed word. Being an independent publisher is all about relationships: the relationship with authors to see their vision achieved, and then the relationship with the reader to connect them with their new favorite books. These relationships are’t possible without the independent literary community that is built by the local community for the local community.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about one of your upcoming programs, events, or publications that you feel exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.

Dallas Sonnier, my co-founding partner in Cinestate, and I created this company to celebrate the independent literary and film communities in our state. We’re proud to live and work here, and to make this amazing state we live in even more amazing. We’re in the midst of pre-production for what will be the first movie we shoot in Texas, a reboot of the classic Puppet Master horror film franchise. We’ll be shooting it all in and around Dallas. It’s so important to us to be able to live in Dallas and to work with the local film community.

This fall, we’re also launching our inaugural publishing season, including a really powerful debut that fell into my lap and blew my mind: an un-put-downable sci-fi/horror novel like nothing I’ve ever read. It’s called The Megarothke, and it’s by a writer named Robert Ashcroft who’s from the Austin area. It was very important to me to include a Texas writer among our first books.

The plan for Cinestate is to continue to shoot movies in Dallas when we can, and to sign as many Texas-based authors as we can. We’ll take the best of Texas to the world, from right here in Texas.

Thanks, Will!

RSVP for the San Antonio panel here. Visit our website for additional cities and dates throughout the month of March.

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.